Karen Dunbar (FringeTIX)
Karen Dunbar @ The Pod
7:15pm, Sun 17 Feb 2008
It’s a mistimed entrance, her floundering onstage completely at odds with the stuttering music; so Karen Dunbar insists that she perform the entrance again. The second time it all comes together, and she manages to massage the audience applause into a rhythmic accompaniment as she gallops about the stage. The clapping subsides – and then she starts it up again, and gallops faster. “That’s all this show is,” she quips, “clapping. Come on, only 57 minutes left.”
Dunbar – “The Karen Dunbar, not ‘Carrington Bar'” – relies very much on her physicality onstage. She flails her arms, she flicks her hair and sweat, she flares her nostrils – there’s comedy value there before she even opens her mouth. And when she does speak, it can be a bit of a battle to understand what the hell she’s saying – her Scottish accent is pronounced and, even if I get the feeling that she deliberately slows her speech and straightens the sounds out to be more acceptable to our antipodean ears, when she gets fired up the dialog can often initially appear to be gibberish. There’s often a noticeable delay between the joke being delivered and the audience laughing; you can almost hear people’s brains kick into interpretive overdrive.
But her material is – mostly – great. Dunbar’s at her best when delving into the more coarse topics – her own incontinence, chef’s arse, spit-roasting, or her own pubic topiary: “‘The Constant Gardener. That’s me.” There’s some funny physical humour – her dance piece was a hoot – but also some dead weight; her Shirley Bassey impressions went on too long for little reward.
Dunbar even gave us a take-home summary of her own show: “Was she funny? Was she fuck – great singing voice, though.” And it is a great singing voice, and she is a great presence onstage, and she did have the mostly full, hot & stuffy Pod in stitches. But there was just a little something missing; I reckon it’s a tiny shard of a fragment of a piece of Something that would turn this show from “yeah, not bad” to “pretty fucking awesome.”
Arsed if I know what that Something is, though. Probably surtitles.